“Thou shalt not kill”
Most young children do not fully grasp the concept of death. They do, however, feel the terror of fear, of separation from loved ones, of anger directed at them. They also know what it feels like to be angry, and to struggle with self-control. You can easily teach children the words, “Thou shalt not kill,” but for them to learn how to obey the Sixth Commandment, it might be wise to first teach them about dealing with emotions, and practicing the self-discipline that goes into getting along with others, and with God.
If children have been taught to love their heavenly Father-Mother God, who takes care of us, they will gladly obey the Ten Commandments. To help them, we must point out the qualities of thought and action which might lead to the breaking of the Commandments. This is especially true of the Sixth Commandment. We can teach our children how to develop the attitudes and discipline that will prevent them from killing and murdering in the various forms they take – physical, moral, and spiritual.
If you are a parent or Sunday School teacher wishing to teach the Sixth Commandment to your children or pupils, you might wish to study my previous essay on the Sixth Commandment for background material and ideas to share with older children.
You can also find ready-made lessons in my book, First Lessons in Christian Science, Volume One: The Ten Commandments. This book has daily lessons for young people in question-and-answer format, and includes discussions on the Sixth Commandment.
Jesus taught that being angry is just as bad as actually killing, so we want our children to learn that anger and other emotions, such as hate, envy, jealousy, and greed, are bad qualities we want to subdue or control. We also want to learn how to express humility rather than self-will, which insists on getting its own way, “or else”! The toddler attitude of “I want what I want when I want it” can grow into the kind of temperament that would strike back at someone to harm, if it is thwarted in its efforts to indulge its wants or whims.
Below are a few more ideas to use in Sunday School classes or one-on-one moments with children, to expand their understanding of the Sixth Commandment and how it might be applied in daily life. These ideas are loosely grouped into age categories, which are to be used only as guides.
For Very Young Children and Up:
Hands are not for hitting. You can turn this into a game of sorts, by telling the children that our hands are not for hitting or hurting. This would make God unhappy (not to mention the poor person or animal on the receiving end!). Ask them to tell you what good things they can do with their hands instead of hitting. Have them show you and the others in class. For instance, hands are for helping. Have the children show one way they can use hands to help. Maybe they can open up the Bible or hymn books in a loving way. Hands are for hugging. Have everyone share a hug! Hands are for holding. Can everyone hold hands, or hold up a useful item. Hands can clap, draw, steer a tricycle, pull a wagon, brush someone’s hair, play piano, cook and eat! Let them use their imagination. End the game with a reminder that we are not to hit or hurt with our hands. A hand that strikes another person might end up hurting them, or even killing them. And that would break the Sixth Commandment. If we are unhappy, we try to use soft words and patience to express what we need to communicate. They can also learn to pray to ask God for what we want, and be willing to accept His answers. Perhaps you can combine this game with a lesson on angels, who can protect us with the messages they bring to us from God.
We do not hurt or kill insects or animals for fun. While there may be a need to defend ourselves against certain insects or wild animals, at times, children can be taught not to torture or kill helpless animals for amusement. They are to be gentle with puppies, kittens, and other animals, as well as using wisdom around them so that the animals do not bite back trying to defend themselves. Have the children consider what they would feel like if someone much, much larger than they did the same thing to them. Would this meet with God’s approval? Would it break the Sixth Commandment?
Sibling rivalry. Teach that learning to get along with our family members is a good place to learn the self-control that will protect us from hurting others. We may sometimes feel like our parents love our siblings better, but show them what happened in the Bible when Cain became jealous of Abel. Also, read to them parts of the story of Joseph, whose brothers were jealous of him and sold him into slavery. Later, Joseph could have had them killed, or denied them food, but he forgave them. Both stories can be found in Genesis.
Beatitudes. The lovely spiritual attitudes taught by Jesus in the opening of the Sermon on the Mount, provide protection from the animal instincts that could develop into murderous actions. The Beatitudes on meekness, mercy, and peacemaking especially apply to the Sixth Commandment. See Lessons in my book First Lessons in Christian Science, Volume Two: The Beatitudes.
The Golden Rule. “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” No one wants to be injured, harmed in any way, or murdered. If children can be taught the Golden Rule, and develop empathy for what others might feel, they will be safe from the self-will that thinks only of its own wants or needs. It would be rare for a person who has embraced the Golden Rule in his or her heart to ever consider murder or killing as a solution or reaction.
For Older Children and Up:
Bullies. There are a number of books and articles available offering practical help on how to deal with bullies. Children need to know there are options to dealing with bullies that do not including fighting back with violent behavior. More importantly, they need to learn not to become bullies themselves, and to learn the power of Love. Often, it is said, children who are bullies have become that way due to being mistreated by others at home. There is a need for healing all around. Children can help to spread Christianity by using love and wisdom in dealing with those who would terrorize them at school or in the community. They need to learn that “You shall not hit or get revenge” is practice for learning “Thou shalt not kill.” Mary Baker Eddy tells us: “Love is the liberator.” (S&H 225)
Violent video and computer games, movies, and television. Studies have shown that there is most likely a connection between the violence found in these sources and the pronounced aggressiveness found in some children and teens today. This may not be true for all of them, but it makes sense that a steady diet of violent images can desensitize a mind to the dangers of real-life violence. One of the Commandments of God, the Second, tells us “Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image.”
By filling young minds with gruesome images of death, torture, and violence, the media industry is usurping the life-affirming qualities of morality and spirituality, which are the natural expressions of God’s children. It is possible that today’s children are having their innocence stolen, and are being set up as avenues of violence and aggression. Parents should monitor what their children watch, and older children can be taught to make better choices. If they understood how these violent images work like poison in their mental atmosphere, robbing them, killing them, breaking the Sixth Commandment, they might stand up to this onslaught, and protect themselves. Do they really find pleasure in watching animated or movie images of violence? Convince them that there is no real lasting satisfaction in this pastime, when the consequences are taken into account. What seems like harmless entertainment could be sapping their soul. Ask them to consider if they like the idea of their money going to support an industry that glorifies killing, and is therefore breaking the Sixth Commandment of God. When they find themselves in harm’s way one day, who will they pray to: God or the game makers? Who is going to answer them?
Revenge. Have your children study the story of Jacob and Esau in the book of Genesis. Esau certainly had reasons to take revenge and kill his brother Jacob, but through Jacob’s prayer, revelation, and redemption, Esau was protected from breaking the law of God, and Jacob’s life was spared. Mary Baker Eddy tells us “Revenge is inadmissible.” (S&H 22) Teaching our children about the joy and value of forgiveness, as opposed to revenge, will save them from the possibility of breaking the Sixth Commandment.
Pre-Teens and Up:
David. Have your children study the life story of David, the Shepherd Boy and King of Israel. Study the times when he showed mercy when he might have killed, and those times when he broke the Sixth Commandment. What were the consequences that he suffered, and what did he do to repent?
Suicide and depression. See my previous essay on the Sixth Commandment for the question on suicide, and the answer from Mary Baker Eddy. Teach that suicide breaks the Sixth Commandment, and would have consequences, since suicide does not bring oblivion or true freedom, but merely sends us into another realm of consciousness and probation. It leaves behind horrendous grief and sorrow, and may have to be punished and repented of. Giving your children and students an understanding that we are in reality spiritual beings, and are not mere bodies made from matter and controlled by matter, may help alleviate depression and suicidal tendencies. Learning about man as Love’s image and likeness, our students may see that one antidote to depression is expression. Allowing ourselves to express love for others can lift us out of the magnetic pull of self-absorbed thinking that leads to depression or suicide.
War. Using the articles written by Mrs. Eddy found in my previous essay on the Sixth Commandment as a starting off point, discuss ideas on how to be peacemakers in today’s world. Open your kids’ eyes to the various motives that are often found lurking in the shadows of war, such as the industries or governments that want to profit from war, the politicians who may seek personal gain in it, and racial or cultural prejudices. They can learn how to pray for peace and goodwill for the whole world. For those who may be interested, “The Story of Christian Science Wartime Activities 1939-1946,” is a book filled with marvelous testimonies of spiritual healing and protection during World War II.
Crucifixion, Resurrection, and Ascension of Jesus. You might want to take this on as a class in-depth study to explore what Jesus accomplished that helps us understand the concept of death today. He not only raised himself from the dead, but he was able to show his disciples the mental nature of body and substance when he walked through walls, disappeared and reappeared at will, provided fish at breakfast without a net, and so on, during the period before his ascension. Read the story of the ascension and get your pupils’ ideas about what they think happened. Find citations in Mrs. Eddy’s writings that explain these events to use in discussion. By understanding fully what Jesus proved in this outstanding demonstration of Life, our children might be able to understand the divine law behind the Sixth Commandment – why God does not want us to kill, why we cannot really be killed, and why we cannot kill others. Life is the only fact to be proved, and Life is Spirit and eternal, as Jesus proved.
Alcohol and drugs. Mrs. Eddy writes in Science and Health: “It need not be added that the use of tobacco or intoxicating drinks is not in harmony with Christian Science.” (S&H 453) While there are many reasons behind this, such as the fact that practicing Christian Science requires clear thinking, and we do not want to sacrifice that holy atmosphere to the momentary pleasure of addictions, the reason I bring up the subject under the Sixth Commandment is so that teens can be taught that using alcohol and drugs can impair their judgment to such an extent they may end up as unintentional killers. A car can be turned into a deadly weapon by a teen driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol. An otherwise loving and caring person can suddenly find themselves in jail for manslaughter by making the unwise decision to “drink and drive.” No matter what punishment is handed down by the judicial system, the guilt from knowing that one has killed or injured an innocent person may linger a long time. Christian Science does teach that such guilt can be healed with the total destruction of the sin that brought it on, but these experiences do not have to happen in the first place.
Copyright 2006, 2017 Vicki Jones Cole